“Quantico” isn’t a bad title, especially when one considers how unwieldy “How to Get Away With Murder 2: Terrorism Edition” would look on a billboard. Because peel away a few layers, and that’s really all this new ABC drama is, featuring a group of young, attractive, anything-to-get-ahead go-getters, living and loving (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) at the FBI’s training academy, before a mystery ensues about which of them might be a terrorist. ABC is doubtless hoping for even part of “Murder’s” success, the question being whether it’s possible to do a Shonda Rhimes-like show without her brand of pixie dust.
With an arresting lead in Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World who was born in India, the show races through a lot of material very quickly, which makes it difficult to get a firm handle on where all of this might settle. But suffice it to say that after a rapid introductory period — complete with raging hormones, secrets and competition — a terrorist act occurs that shakes the bureau to its core. And guess what? The evidence points at Chopra’s Alex Parrish, which means one of her classmates was likely responsible.
ABC did the show no favors with its summer teaser campaign that showed a seemingly naked Chopra draped in an American flag. But on further inspection, what else, really, did they have to promote? Certainly not the tough-as-nails tutelage of her FBI trainer Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins, a post-pilot replacement for Dougray Scott), which, like so much here, echoes other TV shows and movies — think Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” as filtered through a new batch of residents on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Created by Josh Safran, “Quantico” will air Sunday nights, and its fate may hinge in part on whether ABC can gain any traction with its lead-in from another new serialized drama, “Blood & Oil.” Put another way, while the pilot is subtitled “Run,” it’s hard to imagine much of a stampede in “Quantico’s” direction without a bit of an assist.
That’s not to say there’s not an interest in this sort of material, merely that the bar for such thrillers has been set pretty high by premium series like “Homeland,” while broadcasters have struggled with their versions (a la NBC’s “Allegiance”). Based on first impressions, “Quantico” seems to be stationed in a more mundane realm. The question now is whether the show can get away with it.